Peninsula State Park Nature and wildlife
Two features dominate the Peninsula landscape: rock and water. Dolostone bluffs surge 150 feet upwards, offering spectacular views. Eight miles of shoreline cradle the rocky promontories. Peninsula has two State Natural Areas, the White Cedar Forest and the Beech Maple Forest. The State Natural Areas Council set both areas aside because they possess unique attributes of native plant communities, typical of the way things looked before Europeans settled here.
Peninsula's shady cliffs harbor microhabitats alive with rare crustaceans, snails and delicate ferns and flowers. The limestone cliffs form a rock ridge called the Niagara Escarpment. This ridge of bedrock stretches across the state of Wisconsin, forming the Door Peninsula, the cliffs at High Cliff State Park, areas of the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario and eventually ending up under Niagara Falls. The bluffs formed about 430 million years ago as mud on the bottom of a saltwater sea. Walk carefully! This habitat includes globally rare snail species. Access: Eagle Trail and Lone Pine Trail.
The Great Lakes alkaline rock shore develops on creviced, wave-splashed, horizontal exposures of dolomite bedrock. Weborg Marsh, near Park Headquarters, is an open wetland dominated by tussock sedges and Canada bluejoint grass. Access: Weborg Point, park at Weborg day use lot.
The forest at Peninsula is almost all second growth, with maple and beech trees dominating. This type of northern mesic forest once covered 1/3 of Wisconsin. Peninsula's two state natural areas, the White Cedar Forest and Beech Maple Forest, were so designated in 1952 as good representations of forest types. Even more incredible is Peninsula's "vertical forest"—northern white cedar trees that hug the bluffs of the Niagara Escarpment. Some of these trees are more than 500 years old. Access: Sentinel Trail, Hemlock Trail.
Peninsula's 3,776 acres includes several family farms, all abandoned more than 50 years ago. They are meadows today. July and August are colorful times. Native milkweed and black-eyed Susan compete with plants imported from Europe, like spotted knapweed. Access: Sentinel Trail, Nature Center Meadow.
A bald eagle eyeing fish from a pine branch.
People are the visitors at this 3,776-acre site; animals live here year-round. Many tolerate two-legged guests quite well, happy to oblige by posing for a photo or two. All park wildlife wants is a little respect. Thank you in advance for steering clear of nesting birds, fawns and other fragile critters. Most of all, thanks for picking up litter and keeping Peninsula beautiful.
Peninsula provides habitat for about 125 different bird species. Look for red-winged blackbirds and orioles near Weborg Point. Weborg also offers fabulous warbler sightings during migration in mid-May. A check list is available at Park Headquarters.
A raccoon might look cute waddling across a trail in mid-day, but quite the opposite atop your campsite picnic table, eating everything inside a cooler. Secure coolers in cars, with windows up. Do not bring food inside a tent. After sunset, listen for the call of the barred owl, "Who cooks for you?" Barred owls usually nest near Tennison Campground. The next morning, peek around the shower buildings where robins and Eastern phoebes sometimes nest. Re-introduced to Door County in the early 1990s, turkeys are now a common sight, especially near Nicolet South Campground.Other animals you will find at Peninsula are fox, coyotes, skunks, porcupines, opossum, grouse, chipmunks, squirrels and rabbits.
Watch bats fly from their daytime roost to hunt for mosquitoes near Welcker's Shelter. Best bat viewing is an hour after sunset.
Deer browse near the nature center and in the field east of Tennison Bay campground along Shore Road. Drive Middle Road for good sightings, too. At dusk, the resident porcupine might waddle from the nearby woods to nibble on aspens that grow near the building. A bluebird nest box in the nature center meadow is active most summers.
Lake Michigan Links
- Underwater archaeologists from the State Historical Society have investigated many shipwrecks in Door County, including some near Peninsula State Park.
- The Detroit District of the US Corps of Engineers publishes interesting reports about lake levels and Great Lakes Hydrology.
- The Center for Great Lakes Environmental Eduation site is developed for students and educators, so it is understandable, no easy task when it comes to articulating the complexities of our Great Lakes.